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Trying to outrun God

Susan Hitts being ordained

To begin a series of articles highlighting call stories from our newest ordinands, Rev. Susan Hitts speaks candidly about how she has balanced her two primary life roles as mother and reverend.

Manchester UMC

“How long are you going to run from your call?” This was the question my pastor, Rev. Hillary Thurston-Cox, posed to me in 2015. I was put off by this question because I was certain I was doing a great job hiding that I was running from my call. I was not surprised that I had a call, and I was not surprised that I was running from it, but I was deeply surprised that my pastor knew I had a call and was running from it! At this moment, I was shaken from complacency to consider exactly how long I planned to run.

Blessing goats
Rev. Susan Hitts (left) blesses a parishioner’s pet goat with the assistance of her youngest child, Karter. The annual Blessing of the Pets service has been a family favorite for many years. ~ photo courtesy Susan Hitts

This question hit me when I was a mother of six in my mid-thirties. I had finished what I believed to be my only upper-level degree a few years before. I was ready to enjoy the fruits of that labor in a field that was not professional ministry. There was only one problem: I was clearly called to be a pastor. Now that my pastor knew, it was time to make some decisions.

It was not that I didn’t want to follow the call to professional ministry. I loved it when my pastors asked me to preach. I enjoyed all the components of professional ministry, from pastoral care to planning meetings. I just couldn’t figure out how to be a mom and a pastor. After all, my values were that I was a mom first. I feared that the hours, immediate needs of parishioners, and the education necessary to be a clergyperson would ask for more than I was willing to give up as a mom.

Still, following the lead of the Holy Spirit has always been the greatest joy and adventure of my life, and the Holy Spirit was opening doors for me to be in professional ministry. So, in 2016, District Superintendent Rev. Anita Hahn took a chance on me, and I became a district superintendent-appointed pastor. Next, I began the journey toward pastoral ministry as a Licensed Local Pastor. This route to ministry appealed to me because it would allow me to have short bursts of education over a few years, plus it had a significantly lower cost than seminary. I thought this was the best route to be a pastor while honoring the resources of time and money in my household.

In my first year of ministry, I attended a variety of trainings. One of the ministry trainings included a financial session with Rev. Dr. David Bell of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. This meeting changed the course of my ministry. When Rev. Bell spoke to me, I learned that some of my ideas about seminary needed to be corrected. There was a provision to take a percentage of courses online, other courses could be taken in one-week intensives on campus, and various scholarships were available to lower the cost of a Master of Divinity degree. At that moment, I realized I had multiple routes to be clergy and a mother.

Woman receiving scholarship
Rev. Dr. Wayne C. Barrett (right) attends worship at Harbor Springs UMC to award Susan a seminary scholarship on behalf of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. ~ photo courtesy Susan Hitts

After multiple conversations with my husband, prayer, and scholarship exploration, I began my seminary degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. In 2019, I graduated from seminary. In 2020, I became a provisional elder (with the commissioning ceremony in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions). In 2023, I was ordained.

My ordination stole was placed on me by my husband, Licensed Local Pastor Randy Hitts, and my daughter, Lay Speaker Elise Hitts. Watching nearby was my youngest child, Kate (Karter), who took family photos, and my son, David, who was on stage playing drums for the worship band at my ordination. I believe this moment perfectly showed how I could intertwine my primary roles as mother and reverend.

Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10b, Christian Standard Bible). I often ask myself what it means to have an abundant life. I believe it means to have a ministry life that is vibrant and a non-ministry life that is also vibrant. Even though we carry our whole Christian self into all our roles as people of faith, I believe it is detrimental if we do not have outlets for ministry and non-ministry experiences.

Since calls are not limited to those in professional ministry, all people of faith should seek what gives them abundant life. I encourage others to ask themselves what ministry opportunity is life-giving and how can they pursue it. I also encourage others to ask themselves what activities outside ministry give them life. Finding ways to experience an abundant life inside and outside ministry is the dual calling of all people of faith.

Considering this, I would like to ask you a dangerous question: How long are you going to run from your call?

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

The Michigan Conference